When thinking about being impacted intellectually it is easy to assume that this will happen in the classroom. And going to another university with a system completely different that anything that I have ever experienced would be expected to come with intellectual challenges. But I can honestly say that Gonzaga courses have intellectually impacted me more. And no, Gonzaga did not pay me to say that. The intellectual impact came from leaving the “Gonzaga bubble” and getting a little more of the taste of the real world. By living in a large, busy city I have learned more about personal safety, finding my way around places I’ve never been before, money management, and a million other little nuggets of information from my day-to-day experiences. My intellectual impact has come in the form of street smarts more than anything else and in Spokane, and especially on the Gonzaga campus; it is hard to come across experiences that challenge your street smarts.
If you ask any Gonzaga student what they like about GU, one of those answers will most likely be community. That is definitely something that I have missed. They way that my study abroad experience has impacted me socially is learning what it takes to make friends and find your own community in a fast paced city. Even though I pass hundreds of faces each day, eye contact is rare and strangers rarely every nod their head to say hello, making the city a lonely place. This has shown me the great importance of community and a feeling of belonging. Finding community sometimes requires getting out of your comfort zone, I have taken that away from my experiences and that is mush easier said than done.
With my challenges on the social sides of things has come a lot of free time to read and reflect, giving me the opportunity to ask questions about morals and spirituality. I admit my struggles with spirituality and religion and when you’re in that spiritual grey area it is very easy to push those questions off to the side and work on, what seems to be, more pressing issues. I have also pushed myself to attended events that have been held by the Christian Union to try and answer my questions about Christianity. One of my flat-mates is also very involved with the Christian Union and we have had many discussions about spirituality where some of my opinions have been challenged. I still haven’t come to a conclusion with my spirituality but studying abroad has given me a chance to more critically think about the questions that I have.
The other night I was laying in bed taking a look back at my experience thus far and all of the amazing things that I have been so fortunate to experience. I also reflected on how I have changed over the past four months. I have seen how I may not have been honest with myself in the past with holding myself up to my own standards. This experience has given me the transformative opportunity of really figuring out what sort of man I want to be and how I can change my actions to become more of the person I really want to be. Being more or less on my own has challenged me learn more about myself in these past four months than my previous years at Gonzaga. Life is a process of learning and transformation to try and be the best version of ourselves and I have made many strides towards that goal this semester.